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For the love of a good story
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I love a good story. The truth is I like stories that often don't end up in the newspaper.

Not trashy or seedy stuff, but just an inside peek at someone's life that shows that they're real people.

Colorful politicians in Georgia have always been fodder for good stories. I once interviewed former Gov. Marvin Griffin, who may have been the best storyteller to ever hold our state's top office. The late governor had a wonderful knack for embellishment that made a funny story even funnier.

My all-time favorite involves Griffin, who was running for lieutenant governor at the time, stopping at what he called "an oasis," a watering hole near the General Motors plant in Doraville. Griffin called it the "pony-ack" plant (they made Pontiacs).

To make a long story short, one man at the end of the bar had consumed enough beer that he was quite inebriated. He gazed up at Griffin, not knowing who he was, and told him he'd vote for him.

"But I'll tell you two son-of-a guns I'm not going to vote for and that's Herman Talmadge and Marvin Griffin," he told Griffin, in more salty language.

There is a true story about Jimmy Carter. Until a few years ago, Carter took his regular turn cutting the grass at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains.

I guess the thing that makes this story interesting is that if we factored in the price of the Secret Service detail that had to stand there and watch him, they probably could have hired a professional landscaper to do the job.

The best stories usually come from insiders, people who were there. They often come with the admonishment that they should not appear in print.

Rick Story may have had the best insider job I've ever heard of. He was the last special assistant to the Rev. Billy Graham.

By the time Rick joined the staff, both Billy and Ruth Graham were in declining health and did not venture far from their home in Montreat, N.C.

My favorite insider story involving the Rev. Graham is more of a story about Rick. I've told it in this space before, but it bears repeating.

Brand new to the staff, Rick was asked by Graham, who was hospitalized at the time, to read to him from the Bible.

As I see it, they don't have a scale to measure the intimidation factor of being asked to read privately the Bible to the greatest protestant minister of all time.

In his nervousness, the Old Testament figure, Job, came out of Rick's mouth as "job" as in "am I going to have a job after this?"

The consistent thing about his stories about Billy and Ruth Graham is that what you saw in public, you saw even more in private. They were people of fervent prayer and Bible study. They were people who exuded love and compassion for all around them.

But they were also people who enjoyed life, studied current events and had a wry sense of humor.

When I called Rick on the day Mrs. Graham died, he spoke of someone who had clearly touched his life. She was special to him, especially when both of his grandmothers died in a short span a few years ago.

In regard to public and private lives, I've heard it said that you shouldn't "advertise in the showroom what you don't have in the warehouse."

Based on the accounts of Rick Story, the Graham "warehouse" was much better than the "showroom."

Harris Blackwood, a native of Social Circle, is on the editorial board of The Gainesville Times. Send e-mail to